August 13, 2018
It’s really hard to know how you’re going with your health goals if we think beyond the typical weight loss measures of kilos on the scale or centimetres on the tape measure. Tracking your progress is one of the best ways to keep you accountable, plus provides a good motivator for smaller goals that are achieved along the way.
We often find with our clients that the scales and weight loss may not be shifting, despite consistent exercise and clean balanced eating. Unfortunately, health is not as simple as calories in and calories out, with elements like sleep, stress, a sense of purpose, confidence, and of course happiness all playing a part in contributing to our health.
The figures from the Wellbeing and Resilience Centre at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) tell a clear story, with the Centre establishing that human wellbeing is the single most important issue for our population, economy and way of life. In other words, we can’t afford to leave wellbeing to the individual only anymore if we are to create a thriving society and country. Mental illness alone costs the Australian economy $190 billion each year, or 12% of GDP! This is the equivalent of nine million days of work every year.
High performing workplaces have been found to have significant competitive advantages compared to their peers such as:
Up to three times more profitable
25% more innovative
23% better at retraining new employees
12% more productive
The research shows that if an organisation is not looking at wellbeing, then you won’t have great productivity, will lack innovation, and you won’t be an employer of choice.
Corporations are starting to acknowledge the role that they play on employees’ health, and overall there is a move towards dealing with our health proactively rather than reactively. Employee wellbeing has previously been seen by many as too subjective and obscure to have any tangible ROI or measurable way to demonstrate the effectiveness of programs targeting this.
Introducing an index which measures key elements of overall employee experience, which can be benchmarked to other industries and tracked over time, not only allows workforces to be better equipped to have effective wellness initiatives, but also empowers employees to take personal responsibility with their health, supported by their employer.
At EBM, we created a new index for measuring overall wellbeing in the corporate space. The creation of this index went through a rigorous research process (we won’t bore you with the details!) but allows you to compare your individual scores, industry scores, and compared to the broader corporate Australia rating. All in a quick 5 minute survey! You can see our model that includes four sub-indexes for the key categories.
If you’re interested in getting your own score or getting your organisation involved, email us to find out more!
There’s been a lot of chat in the past couple of months about Millennial’s, and various ‘experts’ coming forward to say why they aren’t able to afford a house, or keep a job, or prosper in life. The most famous is this one from Steven Sinek on Millennial’s in the workplace.
There’s been a range of ideas put forward as to how we can save for what we’ve been wishing for, from cutting down on a daily coffee to eliminating our beauty regimes, and stopping overseas travel. While it seems ludicrous to our grandparents that we would do all these things when trying to save for a house, are they now considered essentials in our daily life or can we afford to cut them out?
One area that seems to be costing anyone who works a corporate job, which these days consists of much more than just the traditional 9-5pm, is food. On average if you spend $10 on takeaway lunch everyday, that’s $50 a week and $2,400 for a 48-week year. Compounding this is dinners out, with an average spent of $40 3 times a week, that’s $120. Per year that equates to $6,240 and this doesn’t take into account expensive weekend meals or holiday feasts.
As we start to put financial and other goals on our list as we get older, saving starts to become that much more important. With compounded interest on that saving of $8,640 (lunches and three dinners out) per year that’s the equivalent to $47,741 over 5 years and $108,573 over 10 years. Throw your daily coffee into the mix and that’s quite a nice little savings jar!
So how can we save $8,640 a year to do this? One answer to this: meal preparation. You do not have to be a body builder to nail meal prep, and you do not have to think of meal prep as just chicken and broccoli. The health benefits of meal preparation go beyond the financial savings that you’ll make. When you know what is going into your food you are in control of exactly what you’re eating, and there’s no secret sauces or hidden ingredients that are hindering your health goals.
If you can just dedicate a few hours on the weekends to your meal prep the “I don’t have time or the energy” argument becomes a mute point. So how do you do it?
1. Find 20 Recipes.
20 may not seem like a lot, but as you get into meal prepping you only use about 10-20 recipes for the whole year. You’ll find ones that are your favourite and that you have down pat and are easy to prepare. Focus on recipes that are quick and easy and require little preparation time. They should integrate your three key macros: protein, carbohydrates and fats in the correct proportions.
2. Take a Cooking Class.
It seems that knowing how to cook delicious and wholesome food has become a bit of a mystery. While many will argue that great cooking is an art, unlike other creative endeavours ANYONE can create good food. Learning from the pros is not only a fun way to experiment with food, but it also provides you with some great fundamental skills and will add to your recipe base.
3. Experiment with Herbs and Spices.
If you want to make your food go from good to great, you need to get comfortable with using different flavours. Herbs and spices are the easiest and healthiest way to add depth and taste to your meals. You’ll start to learn what you like combining together and which flavours you prefer. If you want to really go above and beyond, you can start your own herb garden on your balcony. Having the fundamentals like basil, rosemary and thyme can give you an endless supply of herbs at your fingertips!
4. Dedicate 3 Hours a Week.
When we cook throughout the week it can get tiring, messy and blowout into hours of preparation, cooking, and cleaning. If instead you set aside 3 hours on the weekend to do all of this, you cut down the time that you need to spend overall and particularly during the week when you arrive home from work. Set yourself up with your breakfast, lunch and dinner containers with everything cut up, cooked if possible, and ready to just be reheated or thrown in the oven. Our favourite tip is having glass jars with all your vegetables already chopped up so when you get home you just need to switch on the oven, throw them on a tray, and cook!
5. Rinse and Repeat.
Fortunately in this domain practice makes perfect. As you start to find the 10-15 recipes that you like each week, you’ll become more efficient and quicker at preparing those foods. Make it a ritual that you dedicate the time to yourself on the weekends to be fuelling your body for the week with nutritious and healthy foods.
Saving money is a great way to motivate yourself to eat healthy. Create a list of goals that you want to achieve with specific timeframes and see the dollars you are saving from meal preparation going towards helping you make them!
Founder of E|B|M Angela has a birthday coming up this week, so in celebration of this we’re talking all things related to milestones.
You’ll commonly see lists like “30 by 30” or “50 by 50” that people set themselves as goals to achieve by a certain timeline. Not only do these lists help to set plans and timelines in place, but they are a fun way to put together a bucket list to do by yourself, with your friends, or with your significant other.
Today we’re putting together a top 10 list that you may find some inspiration for your own list no matter what age you are! The important thing with lists like this is that you only put elements on there that personally relate to you and that you consider important! Find yourself a comfortable space in the sunshine or rugged up on your lounge and get creative.
NOTE this is not a typical “achievement list”; this is looking through the lens of ENERGY|BODY|MIND of creating a healthier and happier YOU.
#1 Set a five and ten year plan: if the word ‘plan’ makes you run in the opposite direction then this one is DEFINITELY for you. As we get older the years seem to absolutely fly by. Before you know it, Christmas is here again and another year is over, but you can’t seem to think about what you’ve achieved in that last 12 months. Having a longer term plan can help time to slow down, with smaller milestones set along the way to achieve the bigger plan. It also means that your decisions become geared towards this goal on a daily basis, and instead of floating through each day, week, month or year, you can depend on your life goals to guide you. You may even put some of these things from the list in it.
#2 Find your significant other: You don’t need to have an engagement or marriage on your list (although if that is important to you then you definitely can!) but finding your significant other is an honourable quest. Finding that one person that you want to spend a majority of your life with and who has similar goals and values to you can make life just that little bit sweeter. However, a huge realisation is that this significant other cannot fulfil ALL your desires from another human. They cannot act as your best friend, confident, lover, philosophical dreamer, lifelong partner, or whatever is on that never ending list. Your significant other is the person you want to share a life with and follow your dreams simultaneously with. They will inherently understand you, respect you, and want the same life goals as you. You’re going to need a whole tribe for everything which takes us to #3.
#3 Create your tribe: They say it takes a community to raise a child so we believe it takes a tribe to raise an adult. You are the result of the top 5 people you spend the most time with, and with time being so precious, choosing those people is crucial to your overall mental and physical health. We talked about finding your tribe but for your list it’s great to seek out people who are in a similar position to you, or ones that are where you are striving to be as an inspiration. Having people in your life that push you and support you will help make this life much more fun.
#4 Fire up those neurons: The neurons are like trees that have beautiful leafy branches stemming off them when we are young. Unfortunately as we get older, these branches start to wilt and some even die and fall off UNLESS we use them. The best way to fire them up and stimulate new growth is to learn a musical instrument or learn a language. It’s a difficult concept for our brain and the effort required is what fires up those trees to be sustainable and grow. Plus it gives you a great excuse to travel!
#5 Travel somewhere you find a little uncomfortable: We’d all like to spend time on a European holiday relaxing in the sunshine with not a care in the world. While those holidays are great, it’s also good to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try a holiday that makes you a little bit uncomfortable. It can be somewhere with a different culture, a different language, or maybe just a different timezone but in any case, it’s somewhere that will help you to develop a cultural awareness and give you personal growth. Ideas include spending time meditating in India, or volunteering at an orphanage in Cambodia, or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro! We’re not saying find somewhere unsafe, just something that pushes you a little outside your comfort zone; that’s where the magic happens.
#6 Start saving and pay off your debt: In the day and age of credit cards it seems all too easy to just buy things that you can’t afford “right now” in the hope/anticipation that you will get the money in the future. Some of the most successful people have cut up their credit cards and live ONLY off what they have in the bank. Having debt on a credit card not only puts you behind the eight ball for future savings but it acts like a constant dark cloud of any spending. Work out a 1 month, 6 month, 12 month plan of paying off the debt and then start to put away savings each week for something in your longer term plans. It’s amazing what just a little bit now adds up to.
#7 Find an interesting hobby: Do you have a hobby at the moment? You’d be one of the few. It’s amazing to talk to people who HAVE a hobby compared to those who don’t. The passion and flow of conversation that a hobby can create is contagious and extremely attractive. It could be something extravagant like sailing, or something simple like cooking. In either case, it’s something that inspires you and drives you to learn.
#8 Learn how to cook: You don’t have to be on Masterchef but learning how to cook can change your life. Not only will your finances be much better off if you’re not having weeknight dinners out and brunches every Saturday but you’ll know what’s going into the foods you’re eating and be in a greater position to meet your health goals. Plus, doing a cooking class or course is a fun outing to do with friends!
#9 Complete a sporting event: This doesn’t have to just be for the fitness fanatics out there! There are LOTS of sporting events available for any level from a 5km fun run to an ironman triathlon. Participating in a sporting event gives you a goal to work towards and also provides a great personal sense of achievement when you complete it. Once you start, it often creates the momentum for bigger and better ones in the future and you can introduce some fun competition with others to get involved.
#10 Give your time: Purpose and passion are two of the greatest traits that we are all in search of. While it’s not possible for us all to have our dream job that means we wake up looking forward to Monday’s, we can however determine what happens during our own time. Volunteering your time for a cause near and dear to you will heighten your own sense of worth but also provide an invaluable asset to those in need. Even better, make it a regular occurrence; do it once a week, a month, or even a year.
This list goes fundamentally to your self development to help you to be a better person not only for others, but also for yourself. If we stop growing, we die, both in the physical and the mental sense. So keep striving for better.
Ever feel like you’re the odd one out of your tribe? Like you are trying to grow and develop yourself everyday, week, and month, and no one is there with you? You may have started (or mastered) meditating, you exercise consistently every week, and you’re eating the best foods to fuel your body.
Your tribe are the people you spend the majority of your time with – your family, your friends, your partner. These people have the biggest impact on your habits, lifestyle, and quality of life. If you are not synchronised with them, then it can make you feel a little out of whack.
For example, research has shown that obesity has become a ‘socially contagious’ disease, spreading among people like a virus. In married couples, when one spouse becomes obese, the risk to the other increases by 37%. Among siblings, the risk is 40%. And it’s worse among friends – for casual friends the risk raises by 57%; for close friends, the risk almost triples (see more on this here).
So what do you do about this? How can you get your tribe synchronised to your ideal lifestyle?
1. Lead by example. Just because your tribe aren’t eating kale, running marathons, and meditation gurus doesn’t mean they can’t be (or a more realistic version!). Share with them the benefits that you are feeling from your own healthy habits. Tell them how much more energy you have, calmer you feel, lighter you are. If obesity is contagious, so are healthy habits, so it can work both ways.
Encourage and invite them to try the healthy habits with you. Instead of going to a burger place for dinner, take them to a healthier option. Replace a morning coffee with a walk. Crowd out mindlessly watching TV or a movie with a guided meditation that you can do together.
There are lots of options out there that you already know about (and are possibly already doing!) and you can act as your tribe’s own coach to spread the good vibes.
2. Change your tribe. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. If #1 fails, it may be time to take a hard look at your tribe. While you can’t choose your family, you can certainly choose your life partner and your friends.
Clara* is a prime example of consciously choosing her tribe. She moved to Sydney and got caught up in a group (and a partner) that prioritised partying and drinking over meditation and smoothies and she felt the impact it was having on her own quality of life. So she proactively started seeking out activities that she wanted to do for herself. It was here that she found her new tribe and her life was turned around.
While finding new friends or a new partner can seem overwhelming, you don’t have to leave the old ones behind immediately. Just start to venture into new activities (you can even try #1 again with some of your friends!) and see where the universe takes you.
3. Run your own race. At the end of the day, this is your life. You decide how you want it to be. If you believe that you can make the healthy choices on your own despite the fact that your partner wants to order a burger and fries, then do it.
There are people who can make their own decisions and not be influenced by those around them. If you’re happy to have a healthy meal while your nearest and dearest are having burger and fries then you run your own race!
So learn to love your tribe or leave them. Either way, make the decision that is right for you, your health, and your happiness!
*Name changed for confidentiality.
For the month of March, we’re talking about stress, and the ways that we can manage it. Stress is something that we can’t avoid, but if we learn the tools and techniques to control it, then we can go a long way to creating a healthier and happier life.
It may seem a little counter-intuitive, but exercise can be one of the best measures to immediately and sustainably reduce stress. After all, exercise is known to increase cortisol – the stress hormone – so how can it also manage it?
On the one hand, stress weakens the brain, particularly the part responsible for your memory. Conversely, exercise promotes the production of neuro-hormones that are responsible for learning, and improved cognitive function. So we now know that just by increasing your heart rate through exercise, you can start to immediately reduce the impacts of stress. There are a few other positives that you can get from exercise that relate to reducing stress:
1. It creates a sense of calm. Stress can really take control of your life. When you think about your never-ending ‘to-do list’ in both your work and personal life, everything can feel somewhat overwhelming and cause the body to try and shut down. Regular exercise can provide structure to your otherwise chaotic life. It is a great way to train the body to get into a rhythm, and as human beings we crave this.
2. It gives you a hit of the ‘feel good’ hormone. When we’re stressed, our self-confidence often takes a hit. Exercise helps to boost the production of endorphins, so that ‘high’ that you get after you exercise (and often for hours after) is not imagined. It improves your confidence and your decision making abilities to keep you switched on for the whole day.
3. It helps with your breathing. Ancient wisdom used to count a persons life by the number of breaths they took, so learning techniques to slow down the breathing were highly regarded. When we exercise, it forces the body to learn how to take deeper and more controlled breaths and be more efficient with oxygen. The more efficient your body becomes with regular exercise, the better your breathing. When we have calm and controlled breathing, we feel physically and mentally calmer and in control.
4. It helps your heart. Heart issues are one of the biggest killers in Australia. While exercise is a great way to get over a broken heart, it also helps with your physical heart health. Linked to #3, when you start to breathe diaphragmatic (nice deep breaths into the belly), the diaphragm gives the heart a gentle massage. This massage keeps the heart beating in a controlled and consistent manner and is also a sign to the body to switch on the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) where our body focuses on digesting and resting.
5. It will improve your sleep. This one is all but guaranteed. Not only does the research tell us that exercise helps us to sleep, but I’ve SEEN it in all of my clients. I had clients who were previously on multiple sleeping pills and potions be able to wean themselves off them all just from taking up exercise. The benefits of getting a good nights sleep are second to none!
So if you’re feeling stressed, try to get moving. It doesn’t have to be a vigorous gym class or bootcamp (though they are great). Something as simple as walking regularly is shown to have access to all of the above benefits. A walk around the block before an important meeting can be a great way to calm the nerves, or a run after work can be one of the best ways to de-stress after a busy day. Exercise is one of the BEST remedies you can implement to manage your stress – and it’s FREE!
Research has recently come to light that if you live in a neighbourhood surrounded by trees, shrubs, and chirping birds, then there is less chance for you to suffer from anxiety or stress.
According to researchers, lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon. But can it really be that simple?
People are increasingly spending time indoors, and with the majority of the day for most spent inside at a computer, it’s no wonder that we’re starting to see the health detriments to society.
The link between the role of nature for our mental well-being has long been established, yet many still fail to get their daily dose of the outside world.
There are several ways that you can try to up the dose of nature in your daily life:
1. Exercise outdoors. Gym memberships can be an astronomical cost, with some gyms demanding up to $100 a week from some of their members. Exercise doesn’t have to be such a costly exercise, AND doing it outdoors gives you a considerable chunk of your day connecting with nature. Go for a walk / jog / run, complete a circuit in your local park, join an outdoor bootcamp at lunchtime; the options are out there!
2. Take a break. I actually think smokers have this one down pat the best. While I don’t advocate for smoking in any way, the one thing that they do best is take breaks regularly outside! Back in my corporate life, I used to get the smokers of the office to come and take me on their ‘smoko breaks’ as a reminder to get outside. As long as I stood upwind, it was a great chance for me to get a few extra minutes outside with nature and re-centre before heading back into the office. A great way to boost your productivity as well!
3. Implement outdoor meetings. I’ve spoken about this before, but on top of having walking meetings (or if that’s not possible), get your meetings outside. Technology has meant that we can be very mobile and portable with our ideas, so take the meeting to a café with an outdoor area, or meet in a bigger space that has access to sunshine and all the elements. It’s amazing how refreshed you’ll feel afterwards compared to being stuck in an air-conditioned building.
4. Convert your commute. We often become so stuck in our ways that we forget the various options we have for commuting. You can walk/jog/run all or part of the way, ride a bike, ride a skateboard/scooter, get creative! Getting up that little bit earlier or getting home just that little bit later will be worth it for your mental and physical health.
5. Bring nature to you. While working outside or out of an office is not a reality for all of us, we can try and bring some of the elements from the outside in. Invest in a plant or succulent that you can have in the office and encourage others to ‘green up’ the space. Research has shown that just looking at nature can help you to feel more relaxed, so when that deadline is becoming overwhelming, or you’ve received a passive aggressive email from a colleague, or your boss is breathing down your neck, you just need a few minutes staring at something green and natural to calm the mind.
So while the headline grab of ‘birds improve mental health’ may be a little simplified, this study does uncover the role primary components of nature contribute toward our mental health. Integrating nature into our daily lives highlights the benefits of preventative healthcare and encourages us as a society to make our cities a healthier place to live.
Sugar coated: Australian’s are increasingly getting out of shape and putting on weight.
The truth: two out of three Australian’s are overweight or obese.
Sugar coated: We should be doing something to help people eat healthier and make better choices.
The truth: Australia is facing an obesity crisis and the Federal Government need to take leadership on this issue.
There are so many different initiatives that could be undertaken to tackle the rising obesity crisis that we’re dealing with in Australia. But when a landmark study recommends taxing junk food, especially sugary drinks, to make them more expensive, and reducing advertising and marketing of those products to children as one of the most effective ways, then maybe we need to listen?
Unfortunately, the Federal Government is doing the exact opposite, with the Minister for Health Greg Hunt bluntly saying, “We do not support a new tax on sugar to address this issue”. When you need to keep big corporates on side I understand it can be difficult to put the health of the nation at the forefront.
Hunt went on to say, “Our Health Star Rating system helps people to make healthier choices when choosing packaged foods at the supermarket and encourages the food industry to reformulate their products to be healthier”. However there are some significant limitations to the Health Star Rating system.
For example, the system is voluntary, which means that its up to the food manufacturers as to whether or not the product will display the health stars. Plus, many of the items that we’re meant to be eating (think fresh fruit and vegetables) are not packaged, so they don’t display the health stars. When their main slogan is “the more stars the better” it kind of makes this misleading.
The calculation of the stars is also somewhat unclear, with full-cream unsweetened natural yoghurts scoring lower than sugary fruit yoghurts. Similarly, fruit juices score four or five stars despite being very high in sugar because they receive positive points for fruit content.
In a context where consumers are extremely price sensitive due to the rising cost of living, would it not make more sense to incentivise healthy behaviours and penalise the unhealthy? The freedom of choice will forever remain, however the choice to eat healthier is now also economically the easier option.
I believe with any behavioural change strategies, we need to work on increasing both motivation while simultaneously removing barriers. In the case of eating healthy, we’re using the concept of money as a mechanism for changing behaviour.
Putting a sugar tax on foods that are clearly not healthy for us not only sends a strong signal educationally that ‘this food is not healthy’ but also communicates on a consumer level that ‘this is no longer the economically viable choice’. The World Health Organisation has urged all countries to implement a sugar tax, and found that such a tax of 20% results in a drop in sales and consumption of sugary drinks.
The best part is, it’s not like Australia would be pioneering the way or going down a completely unknown path. In fact, we’re quite far behind with countries like Denmark, France, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, the UK and some US states bringing in a sugar tax.
The leader of this latest study at the Global Obesity Centre at Deakin University, Dr Gary Sacks, said “It can’t be that we are all inadequate human beings… the problem is we live in an environment where junk food is everywhere, it’s heavily marketed and in a lot of cases, it’s really cheap.”
He’s totally on the mark with this one – it’s not that we are all unable to avoid temptation and consciously seek out the ‘bad stuff’; it’s literally thrown in our faces on a daily basis. Think about the amount of money spent on advertising for chips, chocolate and lollies versus the amount spent on sprucing fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s no wonder that when we’re hungry we reach for a chocolate bar.
So is taxing the right answer? The evidence in support seems to point towards a YES. So what can you do about it to get the ball rolling? Start the conversation. Write on Facebook to your local MP. Share the story on your own social media. Do your own research into what has happened in other countries when they have brought in a sugar tax. Educate yourself and others. You can do something and together we can bring about change.
How was your sleep last night? Did you get a solid, uninterrupted 8 hours of bliss? If you’re like most people, last night probably looked more like dragging yourself to bed once you’d reached complete exhaustion, tossing and turning, waking up randomly at 3am and feeling wide awake, then being rudely awoken by your alarm. Sound familiar?
There’s a spectrum of the quality of sleep between the complete bliss and the complete nightmare, and if you’re sitting closer to the latter then it’s time for a reset.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything from pills and potions to plants and night-lights, a new study from the University of Colorado has shown that there may be a much simpler way and it comes from the great outdoors.
Think about the way that our ancestors used to live, they’d rise with the sun and go to sleep with the sun. Their circadian rhythm was very much dependent on natural light which kept the body clock in check.
Fast forward to the way we live and we are not only deprived of natural light, spending hours under artificial lighting in office blocks, but we’re also forcing this artificial light into our lives late into the night. This is causing chaos with our circadian rhythm, and is a significant contributor to the lack of quality sleep.
Melatonin is the hormone that is released that helps us go off to sleep. It is well known that light destroys melatonin in our bodies. Going to bed late not only contributes to tiredness and productivity throughout the day, but is also now linked with obesity, diabetes and mood disorders.
So how do you hit the ‘reset’ button? A recent study has shown that just a couple of nights in the great outdoors are enough to retune the body’s internal clock. This not only allows you to fall asleep more easily, but it allows the body to move through the five stages of sleep more rhythmically.
So say you’ve done your weekend reset, how do you keep it up? Here are the top five ways to bring the traditional outdoors elements back in with you:
1. Embrace the darkness. The natural environment has one key element that we seem to be missing in our modern world – complete darkness. I love when staying at hotel rooms they have those blackout blinds. I could be sleeping in the middle of the day and think it’s the dead of night because it’s so DARK! At home, do your best to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Remove all sources of artificial light – even a TV light is enough to keep you wired. Invest in some good blackout blinds (or get creative with your own DIY version). Even using an eye mask can really help to take your body into full darkness.
2. Turn off the tech. This is often the hardest one for a lot of people. When you go camping (and you do it right) there is no technology. Phones, ipads, ipods, all i-things are off. While it is not realistic in the modern world to throw away your phone, try weaning yourself off before bedtime. Start with switching it off (or to flight mode) 5 minutes before bed. Then extend that to 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, up to 2 hours before bed. Not having contact with a screen before bed REALLY helps to unwind the mind and help you switch off before going to sleep. All those thoughts that come racing in as soon as your head hits the pillow will have time to digest BEFORE bed if you allow them.
3. Lessen the lights. Unlike in camping where you have to follow the sun for the hours you can be awake and active, I’m not going to tell you to go to bed with the sun (particularly hard in winter when the sun goes to bed so early!). Instead, try and dim lighting in your house, or keep it to a minimum for 30 minutes before bed. Use low lighting lamps, candles, lights that aren’t so aggressive and prone to destroying that much needed melatonin release!
4. Set your bedtime meeting. My clients who have the best nights sleep treat their bedtime like an important meeting. Some of them even have an alarm when it’s time to go to bed! Getting into a routine of a set bed time that’s at a reasonable hour not only helps keep that circadian rhythm happy but also makes waking up on the other end much easier!
5. Target is 7-9. That’s hours of sleep. It’s sometimes easier to work backwards, figuring out what time you need to get up with what time you need to go to bed. Research shows that it’s the hours BEFORE midnight that are the best quality, so try and make at least two of those hours before midnight.
Sleeping has such a huge impact on how we feel; our energy levels, food cravings, our ability to exercise and move. It is one of the biggest problems that clients come to me with, and one of the best solutions to so many other (seemingly unrelated) problems! Start working on your sleep routine today and see how it transforms your life.
The world has become a pretty unstable and unsettling place at the moment – Donald Trump is in charge of the most powerful country in the world, the UK is in negotiation to leave the rest of the EU, and war continues to rage in the Middle East. One sitting of the news and you’re likely to walk away feeling more down than when you started.
In a time where we’re experiencing the highest standard of living in history, paradoxically we’re also more depressed, anxious and unhappy.
First things first, we need to take care of ourselves. I’m not saying this out of selfishness, or from a ‘every man from himself’ perspective. I’m talking about learning to create happiness and peace from within that can radiate onto others and create a ripple effect. There’s a reason they get you to fit your own oxygen mask on a plane before others – you won’t be able to get someone else’s mask on if you’re not breathing!
So here are the top 6 things that you need to be doing for yourself regularly in 2017. I’m not saying that these things will change the world, but they will definitely help YOU to feel happier, healthier and a more altruistic human.
1. Breathe. It’s amazing how many people aren’t breathing to its full potential. I used to be one of them. I used to just keep all the oxygen in my chest, and not expand the breath into my diaphragm and lower abdomen. When you start to breathe diaphragmatically, the PNS system (learn more on this here) is switched on, and your body starts to relax. It’s great to mindfully breathe like this first thing in the morning and last thing at night before you go to sleep for about five minutes. This will help you to subconsciously breathe like this throughout the day as well. It’s amazing what 5 minutes of deep breathing can do for your mental and physical health!
2. Fuel your body. It’s easy to forget that the reason we eat is to provide fuel to the body. The balance between eating for pleasure and eating for survival has swung considerably to the former and this is having ramifications. Try to make at least one meal a day focused on fuelling for nutrition. Eat nutrient dense foods – like fruits and vegetables – and try and eat as close to the natural source as possible. Processing of foods has changed considerably, and it’s hard to know what’s been added when you can’t understand the ingredients!
3. Move more. Unless you’re an ultra athlete, we could ALL do with more movement. Our sedentary lifestyle has us sitting down more than ever. Unfortunately, one hour of intentional exercise has been shown as not enough to combat the effects of sitting at a desk all day. So we need to start integrating movement throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to/from work or a portion of the journey, or go for walking meetings instead of sit down coffees. Do whatever it takes to make that magic 10,000 step number. It’s not in any way easy, but it’s very rewarding for your body.
4. Learn to meditate. If there is only ONE thing that you do this year, learn to meditate. There are yoga studios and meditation centres popping up everywhere, and plenty of resources online that can teach you the fundamentals – I have even made a recording for you here. If you’re already meditating, make it a goal to foster your practice. I could go on and on about the benefits of meditation (and I do so here) but for the sake of this blog, just realise that meditation is one of THE BEST forms of self-care out there. It takes as little as 5 minutes a day, and it can be life changing. Trust me on this one.
5. Embrace minimalism. I have blogged on this already (and will probably continue to!) and it seems to be quite an emerging theme for me (and plenty of others) in 2017. It seems that an excess of ‘stuff’ is manifesting our discontent, and there is no end in sight in the hunt for something new. Cleanout your wardrobe (learn how to here) or de-clutter your office space. Just spend time over the next year clearing the physical to allow the mental space for growth.
6. Sleep. At the end of the day it can feel like there’s just not enough time to do any of those self-care activities. I wouldn’t blame you for telling me so! The proverbial ‘to do list’ continues to grow, and despite the number of items we tick off, it never seems to end. One thing you CAN do that doesn’t require an extra item on the to do list is to sleep. I mean, force yourself at least 7-9 hours of sleep EVERY NIGHT. I can hear you groaning through your computer “who has that much time to sleep?”. The change makers do and so do you. The plane and oxygen analogy is most pertinent here. You will be so much more productive, have so much more energy, be capable of achieving so much more in less time, IF you get more sleep. Try it for a week and see what happens…
Now this may seem like a lot but even if you just pick ONE of these things to do this year, the transformation may just surprise you.
Jennifer Scott did a Tedx Talk on her form of minimalism in the wardrobe. She talks about how we constantly add to the wardrobe yet don’t throw out things that are currently in the wardrobe. Despite this paradox how many of you have those mornings before work when you think “I have nothing to wear”? The struggle is real to find an outfit that feels comfortable but also looks good. We often have to end up picking something last minute so we’re not too late, and for the rest of the day end up feeling slightly uncomfortable in our choice. My partner – who wears a suit everyday – still has the conundrum of picking out what colour SHIRT (he only has one choice to make!) he’s going to wear that day.
So why does this inverse relationship exist between the number of clothes and the ease with choosing what to wear? Behavioural economics will tell us that it primarily relates to the notion of choice. Research shows that increasing choice actually overwhelms our brains, and too much choice has a negative impact on us. So how do we overcome it then?
Well Jennifer proposes a 10-item wardrobe. She advocates for having a small high-quality wardrobe that is in heavy rotation. There seems to be quite a stigma in Australia about wearing the same clothes. But this isn’t the case in all cultures. Look at any European film; the main lead women characters wear only a few items consistently. It allows them to demonstrate their own unique style everyday. Whereas American films are all about having a different outfit in each scene!
Let’s just think for a moment about what a 10-item wardrobe for Summer / Autumn could look like:
· 2 pairs of pants
· 1 pair of jeans
· 3 dresses
· 4 shirts
· 2 pairs of trousers
· 2 pair of shorts
· 4 shirts
· 2 jackets
Seems reasonably do-able? You are also allowed some ‘extras’ on top of your 10-item wardrobe, such as: t-shirts, blazers, and special occasion wear like for weddings or specific occasions.
I’m not going to stand here though and say that I have a 10-item wardrobe (maybe one day!) but I do a wardrobe cleanout twice a year. To make things easier, I turn all my coat hangers to face the ‘wrong way’. When I wear an item, then it is turned back the right way. This helps me identify what clothes are not being worn regularly. This cleanout has four rules that a piece of clothing has to pass before it gets to stay in the wardrobe:
1. Does it fit me today: don’t wait till you lose/put on that weight and think ‘then it will fit me’. The rule stands for ‘does it fit me TODAY’.
2. Is it age appropriate: there are some items that can last decades and still be timeless, but that tiny leather skirt you bought when you were 18 is probably not appropriate to wear to your friends 30th birthday anymore.
3. Is it my true style: I find as my wardrobe starts to shrink, it also starts to develop. You know the typical clothes that you feel most comfortable in and that look good, so I keep items that follow that trend. If you think that biker jacket looked really great in the shop but you’ve never worn it, it’s probably not your style.
4. Has it been worn in the last 6 months (you can tell by the coat hanger flipping trick!): this is the best rule for the bi-annual clean up. If you haven’t worn it in the last 6 months then it’s got to go.
On top of this, I also enforce the rule that if I buy something, then the equivalent in the wardrobe has to go. Realise that RIGHT NOW you have enough of everything, so anything you buy is excess. So for an easy example, if I buy a new pair of socks, then I throw out an old pair. If I buy a new top, I know that I need to throw out a top at home. This requires a little more thought now in the buying decision. So rather than just impulsively buying items, I now think about what will be sacrificed for this new piece.
So you may still be asking ‘why bother?’. Well despite having a lot more room in the wardrobe and not having to squish everything in, there are some real benefits to having a condensed wardrobe:
· When you need to get dressed for work, you should now be able to pick 2 items and they’ll go together.
· You can let your true style shine through that is classic and unique to you, not like everyone else.
· You will save money because you won’t be impulse buying.
· A clean wardrobe means a clean mind.
· You’ll always be able to look presentable and not default to your ‘active wear’ even though you’re not exercising.
See how you go with de-cluttering your wardrobe!